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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.
It is evident that Zedekiah was well affected toward Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 37-38, dealing with events during the siege of Jerusalem, we have an account of his relations with Jeremiah and of the prophet's personal history up to the capture of the city.
2But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the LORD, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.
3And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the LORD our God for us.
This embassy is not to be confounded with that Jeremiah 21:1 which took place when Nebuchadnezzar was just marching upon Jerusalem; this was in the brief interval of hope occasioned by the approach of an Egyptian army to raise the siege. The Jews were elated by this temporary relief, and miserably abused it Jeremiah 34:11. Zedekiah seems to some extent to have shared their hopes, and to have expected that the prophet would intercede for the city as successfully as Isaiah had done Isaiah 37:6. Jehucal was a member of the warlike party Jeremiah 38:1, as also was the deputy high priest Zephaniah, but otherwise he was well affected to Jeremiah.
4Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison.
5Then Pharaoh's army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem.
Then - And. Pharaoh-Hophra Jeremiah 44:30, the Apries of Herodotus, probably withdrew without giving Nebuchadnezzar battle. After a reign of 25 years, he was dethroned by Amasis, but allowed to inhabit his palace at Sais, where finally he was strangled.
6Then came the word of the LORD unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,
7Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to inquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh's army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land.
Jeremiah's answer here is even more unfavorable than that which is given in Jeremiah 21:4-7. So hopeless is resistance that the disabled men among the Chaldaeans would alone suffice to capture the city and burn it to the ground.
8And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire.
9Thus saith the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart.
10For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.
11And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's army,
Was broken up for fear of - Or, "had got them up from the face of." It was simply a strategic movement.
12Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.
To separate himself thence ... - To receive a share thence. When the siege was temporarily raised, the first object would be food, and, accordingly, Jeremiah accompanied by others, who, like himself, had a right to share in the produce of the priests' lands at Anathoth, started there to see whether any stores remained which might be available for their common use.
13And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans.
A captain of the ward - Captain of the watch, whose business was to examine all who went in and out.
The gate of Benjamin - The northern gate, also called the gate of Ephraim.
Thou fallest away ... - His well-known views made Jeremiah a suspected person, though the charge was groundless.
14Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.
The princes - Not the noblemen trained in the days of Josiah and Jeremiah's friends Jeremiah 26:16, but those described in Jeremiah 24:8. They assumed that the accusation was true; they first scourged and then imprisoned Jeremiah.
15Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.
The house - Probably the official residence of the secretary of state.
16When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days;
Dungeon - literally, house of a cistern or pit, and evidently underground. In this cistern-like excavation were several cells or arched vaults, in one of which with little light and less ventilation Jeremiah remained a long time.
17Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the LORD? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.
18Moreover Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison?
19Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?
20Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.
21Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.
The prison - the watch (marginal reference).
Piece - literally, a circle, i. e., a round cake.
The bakers' street - It is usual in oriental towns for each trade to have a special place set apart for it. Compare Acts 10:6.